Q. Why can I hear speech, but not understand what people are saying?
This is the #1 indicator of hearing loss. Patients who have a mild to moderate higher frequency hearing loss report that they can hear people speaking, but can’t understand what they are saying. When hearing is tested, frequencies ranging from low pitch to high pitch are tested and plotted on a graph (audiogram). It is common to hear low frequency sounds within the normal range, but not higher pitched sounds.
In speech, the vowel sounds (A, E, I, O, U) are in the lower range while consonants (S, F, TH, SH, V, K, P) are higher pitch. Hearing the lower pitches will alert you to speech, but the consonant sounds distinguish the words and provide the clarity for understanding.
Extensive research and development for new hearing aids often takes up to two years of work by electrical engineers, sound engineers, programmers, audiologists and computer engineers. The hearing aids that we fit are medical devices regulated by the FDA unlike over-the-counter sound amplifiers. Working with regulated hearing aids requires extensive programming and the knowledge specific to each technology. The audiologist attends trainings on a regular basis to remain current with the new technology. Most audiologists bundle all of the fees for fitting and follow-up appointments into the price of the hearing aids. In addition, we are required by law to offer at least a 30-day trial period with hearing aids and offer a money-back guarantee.
No, a hearing screening is often the first step to determining if further evaluation is required. The results of a screening would indicate a pass or a referral for a more detailed hearing evaluation by an audiologist.
An audiologist has a master’s or doctorate degree in audiology specializing in evaluating and treating people with hearing loss and balance issues. In New Hampshire, audiologists must be licensed by the state. Hearing loss is caused by medical problems 10% of the time. Audiologists are trained to recognize these problems and refer patients to an ear, nose and throat physician.
If you are:
Note: Most babies are currently screened for hearing loss at birth, yet hearing can be affected later in life.
Learning to hear with hearing aids will take time. It may take 2-6 weeks to get used to hearing all the new sounds, and you may find it a bit overwhelming at first.
It is important to wear them daily. You may find it easier to start at home in a quiet environment listening to the TV, radio, and engaging in one-on-one conversation.
Gradually introduce different environments and eventually expose yourself to noisier settings such as restaurants, meetings and other group settings.
It is important maintain your follow-up appointments with your audiologist and communicate any problems you may be experiencing. Your audiologist may make adjustments in the programming of the hearing aids, create a specific listening programs for you, or modify the fit for better comfort and offer suggestions to help you better use your new hearing aids.
Get the listener’s attention before you begin talking. This can easily be accomplished by calling their name or tapping their arm.
Look at the listener and maintain eye contact. This allows the listener to see your lips (speech reading) and read your facial expressions and gestures.
Speak clearly and naturally. Do not shout or over exaggerate your words. Speak at a normal rate, and use pauses at the end of sentences to give the listener time to process the words.
Try to eliminate background noise if possible. Turn off the TV or radio or move to a quieter area.
Make use of good lighting if possible.
If the listener is in a wheel chair or shorter, change position so you are face to face.
Note: Hearing aids alone may not allow a person with hearing loss to communicate successfully in all listening situations.
Myth: Wearing a hearing aid is a sign you're getting old.
Fact: Although hearing impairments are common in older adults, many middle age and younger people are affected as well. Nearly 3 in 1,000 babies are born with hearing loss in this country each year. There are many factors beyond age that can affect hearing. A hearing loss is often more noticeable than a hearing aid.
Myth: A hearing aid will damage your hearing.
Fact: A properly fit and maintained hearing aid will not damage your hearing.
Myth: Wearing two hearing aids is not needed.
Fact: We normally hear with two ears (binaural). Two ears help us localize sounds, hear better in noisy settings, and provide balanced and more natural sound quality. Most people with hearing loss can understand speech better with two hearing aids.
Myth: If I had a hearing loss, my doctor would have told me.
Fact: Only 14% of physicians routinely screen for hearing loss during a physical.
Myth: Hearing aids can restore hearing to normal just as eyeglasses give me 20/20 vision.
Fact: Hearing aids do not restore hearing to normal or cure hearing loss. Hearing aids can provide improvement in communication, hearing and improve your quality of life.